Diversity has quickly established itself as one of the most prominent focuses for employers. Many organisations now strive to create a workforce that is more representative of the range of demographics reflected in the wider UK population. It is important to remember that a diverse workforce goes further than sexual orientation, race and gender and should include a variety of ages, socio-economic backgrounds, education levels, geographic locations, cultures, thought processes, and many others. In fact, many organisations are now recognising and harnessing the power of cognitive diversity and neurodiversity.
Over two-thirds of businesses in the UK now have diversity strategies. Statistics show increases in workforce diversity with employment rates for women, ethnic minorities, and the LGBTQ+ community gradually rising.
Nevertheless, 67.5% of LGBTQ+ employees reported hearing negatives slurs, jokes, or comments about LQBTQ+ people in the workplace. Over 40% of employees who reported a racist incident said they were either ignored or labelled a ‘troublemaker’ and 36% of all employees say they have experienced workplace discrimination.
These statistics show that although companies are highlighting a dedication to diversity, equity and inclusion are often left behind. To reap the benefits of a diverse workforce it is essential to ensure equity and inclusion for all employees. It’s not enough to hire people from different backgrounds, these people need to feel valued and able to participate.
Equity recognises that not everyone has the same circumstances and may need different support as a result. It aims to ensure that everyone has the chance to succeed by creating conditions that can eliminate barriers and ensure fairness in opportunities.
Inclusion is ensuring everyone is valued. It allows everyone to feel that their contributions matter, that they belong without having to conform and can reach their full potential.
In the context of DE&I, diversity doesn’t only mean demographic differences – it becomes appreciating differences and ensuring that each of these attributes are valued.
There is a moral obligation to build fairer and more inclusive workplace environments; regardless of our demographics, we all deserve the opportunity to be fairly rewarded and recognised for our hard work and heard by others. However, DE&I also allows employees to feel safe, welcomed and valued which is essential for their well-being and can provide your company a competitive edge.
Better diversity allows people with a range of experiences, perspectives, and backgrounds to have input into projects, leading to greater creativity and innovation. In fact, inclusive companies are almost twice as likely to be innovative. Your colleagues are also more likely to be confident in their unique qualities and abilities if they are in an inclusive environment, where they observe differences being welcomed and celebrated. Feeling welcomed and celebrated improves engagement within a team and is a powerful motivator for success.
Everyone has a part to play in creating a more inclusive environment in their workplace. So, what can you do?
Be aware of unconscious bias
Unconscious bias describes associations or feelings that you may have towards a demographic group which are formed outside of your own unconscious awareness. Everyone holds these unconscious beliefs, and they may not align with your conscious beliefs which is why it is important to be aware of them. Recognising any unconscious biases that you hold will allow you to counteract their impact on your thoughts and behaviours.
Actively seek others’ ideas
Do you have a specific colleague that you always go to for their opinion? Try broadening your horizons and challenge yourself to ask someone new. You’re likely to gain valuable fresh perspective and strengthen your workplace relationships along the way.
Get to know the diversity policies and goals of your company and actively engage in their efforts. Learning more about other demographics is a great way to improve cohesion within your team and beyond. Is there a holiday coming up that your colleagues may be celebrating? Could that comment be insensitive? Use this knowledge to educate others; often negative behaviour stems from ignorance rather than malice so a willingness to help others on their journey is invaluable.
Statistics show that there have been improvements in diversity and inclusion in the workplace however there remains much work to be done. A diverse workforce needs an inclusive environment to flourish which is something we can all contribute to creating. Recognise and celebrate your own unique characteristics, as well as those of others, to improve confidence, innovation, and motivation.
If you'd like to understand how you can harness the benefits of diversity in your team or organisation, we'd love to have a discussion with you. Contact us at email@example.com to find out more about the support we can offer you.